BABBITY’S BIG BAD MOOD BY M CHRISTINA BUTLER
A rabbit wakes up in a bad mood for no good reason. He (she?) is supposed to be going on a picnic with squirrel and mouse. While squirrel and mouse have fun, Babbity sulks. Eventually his mood turns after he finds a ladybug upside down and rescues it. He joins in the handstand games and starts to have fun. They wonder where the bad mood has gone. But then mouse gets stuck in a hole and when he’s pulled out it’s now his turn to be in a bad mood.
I suppose this book teaches that everyone takes turns to be in a bad mood, and that it’s not always clear what brings bad moods on.
TRUMPET THE LITTLE ELEPHANT WITH A BIG TEMPER BY JANE CLARKE
This story teaches children the technique of counting to ten when they get angry or over-excited. It’s Little Trumpet’s birthday and he gets excited and boisterous. His mother urges him to count to ten. When Trumpet accidentally ruins the birthday cake by blowing water onto it, the mother elephant has a chance to demonstrate the art of counting to ten herself.
THINK HAPPY BY NANCY CARLSON
I was skeptical about this book before picking it up because I think the positive thinking movement has a lot to answer for in this world, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected. The author offers practical, concrete ways in which kids can make themselves happy, and some of them are even proven to work, like getting exercise. I’m not so big on the advice to ‘have faith’ (accompanied by a picture of rabbits sitting on pews), and I’m also not convinced about the advice to drink lots of water (which was trendy in the 90s but which has since proven to be mostly bollocks). Yet this book was published in 2009.
Here’s a similar list — also faith inspired — for adults. (In case you’re interested in this kind of thing.)
HAMISH AND THE MISSING TEDDY BY MOIRA MUNRO
In this story, teddy bears attend a picnic (as they do), and one little teddy accidentally squashes some cake. This makes the owner of the cake upset, and the little teddy feels very bad about having squished the cake, and suffers a drop in self esteem until he’s reminded that you can still be loved even if you do go around accidentally upsetting others from time to time. This book is a little saccharine for me, and plays on that emotion every mother has experienced, when a cute toddler does something horribly destructive and you get angry regardless, despite understanding it was a mistake. This story would help children to make sense of the feelings around such events.
IT’S LOVELY WHEN YOU SMILE BY SAM MCBRATNEY
A joey is feeling out-of-sorts. His kangaroo mother tries her best to cheer him up, and tells him that smiling will make him feel better.
I have a personal distaste for this message, because I simply don’t think it’s true. Smiling when you feel awful can only ever be an approximation of a smile, and will no doubt look more like a grimace to others. I also have a problem with the overall message that ‘Even when you’re feeling like shit, make sure you hide it’. This is completely against all of those government TV advertisements we’ve seen lately which teaches that if you’re feeling low, it’s time to see your doctor because you might have depression.
Not that I think dealing with depression is the aim of this book. This is simply a bad mood we’re dealing with here. But still, I’d much prefer a story in which a grumpy character is left alone for a while, since that’s obviously what they need. Instead, we have a world full of extroverts doing extrovert stuff, and pushing their own world views onto others.
DONALD LOVES DRUMMING BY NICK BLAND (2008)
There is a category of books starring young mischievous boys who annoy everyone around them by simply being themselves. In this case Donald annoys everyone by playing drums loudly, but it doesn’t seem to matter what he does, it never meets with his family’s approval. Eventually his father helps him to build a treehouse. His mother makes the curtains and his little sister helps him paint. In the end, all is well, because Donald can bang away to his heart’s content in the tree house. Little boys like Donald the rhino are likely to identify with this kind of rejection of their natural selves. If you’re after just this kind of picturebook, which reinforce all the ordinary gender stereotypes, this is the book for you.